history of the nordic peoples

Robbie Rotten is Literally a Troll

With the huge increase in popularity in the Icelandic Children’s TV show Lazytown, I quickly noticed that the original drafts had some root into icelandic folklore, for instance, Sportacus was originally an elf. In the kid’s tv show, it seemed to have discarded those cultural roots in place of something more Americanized- making a trickster elf into a superhero. It seems that all trace of Iceland has been erased (except for Magnus Scheving’s accent), but there may be more down the rabbit hole. 

I’m studying Anthropology, and have been a Storyteller for many years, with an emphasis in folklore from different parts of the world. When I noticed that the original Sportacus was an elf, I was quite intrigued. How much matched up with traditional Icelandic folklore? So, I looked it up. 

The most common nordic/ Icelandic folk tale is about beings called huldufolk (hidden folk) which can be recognized as being fairies, elves, and trolls. 

Sportacus matches up closely with the stories of the elves. In fact, he was one in the drafts that didn’t quite make it too far out of Iceland. However, Sportacus still has a lot of traits that match up with the elves from Icelandic folklore. One prominent story that comes to mind is a story about a town that loved to dance, and when the sheriff of the town banned dancing, the elves sided with the townsfolk who loved dancing to run the sheriff out of town. Does that sound familiar? An elf siding with someone who loves to dance to keep dancing and other activities alive in the town while stopping the person who gets in the way is essentially the plot of every single episode of Lazytown. While the original Sportacus was a lot more cruel in his tricks, the current Sportacus certainly bears resemblance to the original when it comes to motivation. 

Now on to Robbie Rotten. Who is he? In the show he is a lazy, rude, disguise wearing, and antisocial man who looks very different from the majority of the citizens in Lazytown. He is also the tallest character, and has purposefully distorted features. Given these traits, we can compare them. 

Trolls are creatures that are dim witted and easily outsmarted. They dislike most people and prefer to live in caves underground to avoid interaction. They are humanoid in nature, though often are shown as being larger than the average human. Their features are also distorted from humans, like having exceptionally long noses or chins. They are also considered to be clumsy, lazy, and poor mannered. 

The hobbies of trolls are also quite telling- they enjoy kidnapping people (even if they do not know what to do with them afterwards) and disguising themselves to trick humans

Robbie Rotten spends all of his time making poor schemes to trick the humans of Lazytown. Many of his plans involves kidnapping one of the citizens of Lazytown, though after they’re captured he often doesn’t know what to do next. He ultimately wants to be left alone in peace and quiet in his underground cavern. Most notably, he uses disguises to try and accomplish his goals, just like many trolls do in traditional Nordic tales. 

The only Troll characteristic that Robbie does not possess is the aversion to sunlight, but hey, no theory is perfect.